Chapter 12: Emotions, Stress and Health
Stress and Health
Psychological states cause physical illness. Stress is any circumstance (real or
perceived) that threatens a person’s well being.
When we feel severe stress, our ability to cope with it is impaired.
Stress can be adaptive. In a fearful or stress- causing situation, we can run away
and save our lives. Stress can be maladaptive. If it is prolonged (chronic stress), it
increases our risk of illness and health problems.
Stress and Stressors
Stress is a slippery concept. At times it is the stimulus (missing an appointment)
and at other times it is a response (sweating while taking a test).
Stress is not merely a stimulus or a response. It is a process by which we appraise
and cope with environmental threats and challenges.
When short-lived or taken as a challenge, stressors may have positive effects.
However, if stress is threatening or prolonged, it can be harmful.
The Stress Response System
Cannon proposed that the stress response (fast) was a fight-or-flight response
marked by the outpouring of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the inner
adrenal glands, increasing heart and respiration rates, mobilizing sugar and fat,
and dulling pain.
General Adaptation Syndrome
According to Selye, a stress response to any kind of stimulation is similar. The
stressed individual goes through three phases.
Stressful Life Events
Catastrophic Events: Catastrophic events like earthquakes, combat stress, and
floods lead individuals to become depressed, sleepless, and anxious.
Significant Life Changes
The death of a loved one, a divorce, a loss of job, or a promotion may leave
individuals vulnerable to disease.
Rush hour traffic, long lines, job stress, and becoming burnt-out are the most
significant sources of stress and can damage health.
Stress and the Heart
Stress that leads to elevated blood pressure may result in coronary heart disease, a
clogging of the vessels that nourish the heart muscle.